The Heart of the MatterIt begins with a CBS "60 Minutes" episode, where award-winning producer Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) has host Dan Rather (Redford) talk about the military records of Bush the Younger, (nicknamed, to differentiate him from his father, for his middle initial).
Dubya, during the Vietnam draft, had landed an exceedingly sweet assignment in the Texas Air National Guard, apparently reserved for the privileged pups of powerful political pops. But junior, regardless, apparently couldn't handle the light duty.
He played hooky, blew off mandatory testing without comeuppance, went AWOL, and ultimately got out early, thereby avoiding combat. How? As Will Ferrell doing a Dubya impression might have put it—with ... "strategery" [strə-tee-jər-ee]. In other words, he had strings pulled for him. Or so it's claimed.
Mapes puts together a world-class team of journalists: Topher Grace's brilliant, hypercommitted, feathering-the-edge-of-conspiracy reporter; Dennis Quaid's avuncular, former-military tough guy; and Elisabeth Moss's moral-compass ethics expert.
Uh-Oh …But once the story breaks, the whole enterprise gets immediately lit up by the blogosphere's razor-sharp minds and acerbic tongues, some of whom, naturally, have political agendas. The team got sloppy due to deadlines, put all their money on a key-evidence memo that happens to be a faxed copy with no original, which right-wing bloggers and Rupert Murdoch's media machine have a field day claiming is fake. This questionable memo also came from a source who refused to be named (Stacy Keach).
Which of course sets off frenzied backtracking and fact checking, with irate bosses breathing down the team's collective neck. But, ultimately, the whole endeavor hinged on their having put all their eggs in one basket, and then the handle broke. Sneaking an internet peek, Mapes is emotionally bludgeoned by cries of "Gut the witch!"
At the Top of Her GameThe "Let's nail Bush" and the ensuing "Now let's get the nail out of our own foot" parts are the overt storyline, but the movie is actually, really about Mary Mapes—mother, wife, and intense hunter-killer investigative reporter. She'd blown the Abu Ghraib scandal sky-high, was at the top of her game, and had a great deal to lose.
Since the screenplay (written by top-notch, first-time director James Vanderbilt) is based on Mapes's book, the story is naturally skewed to her take on things. One could also argue that, seeing as how the movie masthead is known tree-hugger Robert Redford (said with respect and affection), there might be a somewhat liberal interpretation of the turn of events.
Mapes and Rather are shown, if somewhat glibly, to have an ersatz father-daughter relationship, as Mapes's actual father was a ruthless physical and verbal abuser.
One of the film's most powerful scenes is when the normally fire-breathing Mapes gears up to lambaste her bullying dad on the phone for publicly dragging her name through the mud, accusing her of radical feminism, only to revert instantaneously to her cowering, tiny inner child. It's heartbreaking, and really should have resulted in an Oscar nomination for Blanchett.
Redford's Roles Show Journalism's DeclineRobert Redford appeared at a forum sponsored by The New York Times, coinciding approximately with the release date of "Truth." The Huffington Post's Stephen Schlesinger reported:
"Redford pointed out that when he played Bob Woodward in 'All The President's Men,' Woodward always had the backing of the Washington Post editor, Ben Bradlee, even when he made occasional mistakes during his Watergate investigation. This support enabled Woodward ... to track down the full details of the Watergate burglary, despite withering criticism, leading to the downfall of President Richard Nixon."He goes on to say that there was no such luck regarding Rather and Mapes's errors. The errors didn't actually detract from their story's essence, but their bosses at CBS nevertheless hung them out to dry. Dan Rather himself, also on the panel, said that the pressure on CBS came straight from the Bush administration.